This Common Condition Spikes Your Stroke Risk by 34 Percent, New Study Says

One in 10 women are potentially affected by these findings.

Strokes are a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., behind heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans have strokes, of which 137,000 are fatal.

An alarming one in three U.S. adults have at least one condition that spikes their stroke risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, the CDC says. But new research shows that women with another common condition are at a 34 percent increased risk of stroke. Read on to learn whether you or a loved one may be at a higher risk of experiencing a potentially life-threatening medical emergency—and what you can do to help prevent it.

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Knowing the early signs of a stroke is crucial.

A senior woman rubbing her head with potential signs of a stroke

Strokes are classified as either ischemic or hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke is more common, and is caused by artery blockage that severely reduces blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing the brain to bleed. In either case, seeking immediate medical attention is critical in order to reduce brain damage. Knowing the symptoms enables you to take swift action and potentially save a life.

The signs and symptoms of a stroke are sudden and appear without warning, says the CDC. These include numbness in the face, arms, or legs (especially one side of the body), confusion, difficulty speaking, vision problems, dizziness, loss of balance, and severe headache. If you experience any of these symptoms or notice them in someone else, call 911 immediately.

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Women with this condition are at an increased stroke risk.

woman looking sick to stomach

A new study published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Stroke examines the link between stroke and endometriosis—a chronic condition in which tissue similar to the tissue that lines the uterus walls (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis affects approximately 10 percent of reproductive-aged women in the U.S., according to the study's authors.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 110,000 women over a period of 28 years and concluded that those with endometriosis had a 34 percent increased stroke risk compared with those who didn't have the common condition. They saw no significant differences between endometriosis and stroke risk across other factors, such as age, infertility, body mass index, or menopausal status.

"These findings suggest that women with a history of endometriosis may be at higher risk of stroke," Stacey Missmer, ScD, study senior author and a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, said in a statement. "Clinicians should look at the health of the whole woman, including elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other new stroke risk factors, not only symptoms specifically associated with endometriosis, such as pelvic pain or infertility."

Endometriosis increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

old woman having heart attack and grabbing her chest

According to the study, previous research found that women with endometriosis are also at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. However, the exact mechanism through which endometriosis is associated with cardiovascular disease remains unclear.

"We hypothesize that inflammation may contribute to part of the association between endometriosis and risk of stroke," explains Leslie Farland, ScD, study author and assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona. "Additionally, we observed that gynecologic surgery, such as hysterectomy and oophorectomy, may also contribute to the risk."

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Healthy lifestyle habits to reduce your stroke risk.

middle age woman exercising

While there's no universal treatment for endometriosis, it's advised that all women eat a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet and exercise regularly to stave off this painful condition and lessen their stroke risk. The AHA recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.

"Physical activity can help improve endometriosis pain symptoms, as well as improve other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease," explains Farland. "Women and their health care providers should be aware of endometriosis history, maximize primary cardiovascular prevention, and discuss signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease."

Maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine intake, and having routine medical exams to check blood pressure and cholesterol levels can all help reduce your chances of developing endometriosis, according to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services.

Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more
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